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By Jim Byous
Lee Maddeford who are you and where have you been? You do what you do and it’s interesting stuff… your music that is.
Recently I discovered Lee Maddeford while, of all things, looking for a royalty-free Black Gospel track. There in the middle of a long list of great spirituals was a tune called “Woman just like you.” I clicked it (below) and it was immediate and certain, love at first listen.
It’s a melancholy melody that contain verses that any man could sing, wished he could sing or secretly aspired to sing. It’s reminiscent of a guy’s first love, current love or maybe even a future love. It summons memories of the first time he met his one-and-only, when he sees his dream-girl passing on the street or when she sits across the bus or the office or a dimly lit bar through a smoky, dream-like fog.
Those who know me will tell you, I am not a “music” kind of guy. I enjoy lots of styles, but am far from a connoisseur. But, one can hear several influences in this guy’s music; Billy Joel, French Cabaret, a little Johnny Mercer. He often sounds like one of my favorites, Eddie Wilson, here in Savannah, GA. There’s a bit of the blues, jazz and, below, I definitely hear the Beatles at the start of “Be what you wanna be.” And,… oddly… what sounds a like the strains of Disney animation tunes in a few of his pieces – Dick Van Dyke could do a bit of light kicking and tapping to a couple. I like all of these styles but can’t be called a super fan of any of them…. except maybe blues and the Beatles of my youth. I’ve heard enough Disney from grandkids to last a few years, though I know I will miss them terribly as my progeny grows.
Most of Maddeford’s songs are bellowed through soft washes of gravel that ripple downstream to create a handsomely mellow and warm voice. It’s a great style and is reminiscent of the legendary Russ Taff. The cut, “Berceuse du temps qui passe,” (Lullaby of passing time?) with its French title starts with a clunk that sound like a dropped studio mic then resonates suspiciously into an Irish drinking song… performed and accompanied by a crowd of inebriated Irish patrons.
I know the sound well. Being Irish I have participated in said sing-along sessions and recognize the archetypal slapping and thumping that emanates from beer covered, pretzel-crusted pub tables. But, don’t give up, listen on. Darned if it doesn’t work… no, really. It’s an enjoyable, insightful and interesting song that was undoubtedly written for a Suisse stage play. It’s becoming one of my favorites.
There seems to be little written about him… Lee Maddeford, unless you happen to read French… which I do not. Other than the French version of Wikipedia about all that I can find is that he was born in Alaska and studied music in Seattle, Washington and worked as a lumberjack at one time, high in the northern woods of Alaska. He apparently went on a backpacking trip to Europe and stayed.
As of 1981 he resides in Gourze near Lausanne, Switzerland. Some of that info came from one of his emails that mysteriously popped up online. And, I read that he writes for choirs, theater and big bands. More interesting is his web site, www.leemaddeford.ch, which contains at least 150 mp3’s that he has made. He allows anyone to download them for free, non-commercial usage. And it’s pretty darn good music – free or not. Oh, there are a couple of the songs that are, in my aged opinion, pure crap… but I’m sure he would disagree. You may too.
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